Magnolia blossoms are pictured here, but this blog is about its bark!


Magnolia bark (Magnolia officinalis, hou po) is a bit of a magical herb because it not only comes from a beautiful tree but it also does so many seemingly impossible things, such as both dispelling Phlegm and regulating energy.

Now what do I mean by that — “dispelling phlegm and regulating energy”?

Before I lay that out, know that magnolia bark has tremendous uses for asthma, wheezing, and cough with abundant sputum.

It also clears food stagnation and accumulation of dampness in the stomach with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hiccough, acid reflux, and abdominal distention.

Plus, it’s been used for insomnia from over thinking in the night as well as movable cysts in the upper body, snoring, and sleep apnea.


Guess what: Magnolia bark can do all this because of its Phlegm-dispelling and energy-regulating actions!

What is Phlegm?

I’ve discussed Phlegm in other blogs, but simply put, Phlegm is congealed dampness in the body creating a gooey substance. It is sticky, obstructive, can change locations, and may appear in the stools, throat, mucus, vomit, or channels (as numbness). If there’s Phlegm in the throat, that’s enough to determine the presence of Phlegm (especially if this occurs in the morning or after meals). If Phlegm is present, the pulse is slippery and/or wiry while the tongue is swollen.

When symptoms don’t fit, think of Phlegm. Phlegm can be the “the mother of 100 diseases,” as stated by the Yuan dynasty physician, Wang Gui. In Ayurvedic medicine it forms ama, or toxic matter. It can not only be a part of but can also be the cause of all of the following:

  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • GERD
  • Scrofula
  • Goiter
  • sinus congestion
  • arthritis
  • soft movable nodules
  • cysts, lumps, or masses
  • swollen joints
  • scrofula
  • lymphadenitis

It can even lead to major diseases like cancer, stroke, atherosclerosis, plaque in the arteries, coma, lockjaw, contracted limbs, cerebral vascular accident, and seizures.

That’s enough for anyone to want to take magnolia bark! But wait, there’s more!

Magnolia bark regulates Qi

Magnolia bark also regulates Qi (loosely translated as energy), meaning that helps move energy that’s flowing in the wrong direction or is stuck. This can be likened to rush hour stop-and-go traffic, or cars piling up in a traffic jam. One of the most common disharmonies in the body, stuck Qi affects not only the organs but also your emotions as well.

Like Phlegm, Qi congestion has far-reaching effects on the body. I also wrote a blog on Qi Stagnation so check that for the full list, but in terms of magnolia bark, it specifically regulates the Qi of digestion, especially for digestive energy that’s moving up rather than its normal downward motion. Thus, it treats nausea, vomiting, hiccough, asthma, wheezing, and cough. When there’s energy congestion, the tongue may look normal, but often the edges are curled up while the pulse tends to be wiry.

So now we know why magnolia bark treats so many conditions but there’s more. It can also dissolve soft movable cysts in the upper body, especially the head and neck. As well, it helps dry blocking phlegm in the stomach, lungs and sinuses, helping to reduce or eliminate altogether snoring and the need for C-PAP machines. And for some, it reduces acid reflux enough that their GERD disappears.

I’ve known people who have taken magnolia bark alone to help them sleep better when plagued by nightly ruminating thoughts.

Even more, taking elecampane root with magnolia bark is a great combination that becomes even more phlegm- dissolving, particularly in the stomach, lungs, and head region. The only caution here with these two is they can be too drying for some or with prolonged use.

As an aside, magnolia buds from a different species (Magnolia liliflora, xin yi hua) are used for nasal congestion, obstruction, and/or discharge, stuffy nose, sinus headaches, and loss of smell. They have a warm energy and pungent flavor and go to the lungs, and stomach. `

Magnolia Bark Magnolia officinalis Hou po (Chinese)
Also named: Magnoliae officinalis Cortex

Family: Magnoliaceae

Energy and flavors: Warm, acrid, bitter
Organs and channels affected: Spleen, Stomach, Lung, Large Intestine
Chemical constituents: Magnalol, isomagnolol, essential oil, alkaloids
Properties and actions: Carminative, stomachic, antiasthmatic; aromatically transforms Dampness, regulates Qi, directs Qi downward
Contraindications: Pregnancy, Yin Deficiency with Heat


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